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When is Professional Computer Repair Advisable?

There are many computer repairs that the average person can perform without much problem. Things like installing CD-ROM drives, sound cards and other expansion cards don’t take much computer knowledge. How can you know though when you are over your head and need professional computer help?

Some computer repairs are difficult for the average person to do without causing damage to their computer or a peripheral. There are some repairs I’d classify as beginner level, some as intermediate and others as advanced. I’ve already mentioned some repairs I would call beginner level. Some intermediate repairs include replacing your hard drive and installing an operating system. There was a time when something like this was advanced but with modern Microsoft operating systems like Windows XP and Windows Vista, operating system installations are not as advanced as they used to be.

So what repairs should a beginner not attempt? I would suggest some things like replacing your motherboard. The need to replace your motherboard can come either when you are ready to upgrade your motherboard to something newer or when your computer case power supply kicks the bucket.

Another repair I would caution against is based in software. That’s when you need to clean out a nasty virus or spyware program. It is very easy to cause you much grief if you don’t do it right. You could lose access to the data on your hard drive if you mess up your operating system. Now if you don’t care about the data on your hard drive, simply re-installing your operating system while making sure to format your hard drive can usually solve a software problem. Kind of like killing a fly with a large shovel. It works but it is overkill. A professional computer repair technician can help you keep your data while ridding you of a virus infection.

Hard Disks: FireWire Vs. USB

These two technologies are competing to be the best way to connect electronics together. They both began as a connection to your PC or Mac, but they have grown to be a form of data transfer between almost any electrical data storage device. See who is the winner in one of the biggest technological races of this century.

USB first showed up on the map to solve the problem of Plug N’ Play devices. Most devices were, at that time, connected to a computer via a serial port. Serial ports were not intended for such a wide application of uses and it is a relatively slow port. What USB set out to do was to create a standardized plug that can be duplicated easily with adapters and hubs. The result was the same standard port you see today. It is much faster now than its original version, but it has remained as unchanged as a wall socket. When it was introduced, you actually create 144 USB ports from just one source by duplicating it with hubs. Of course, the PC needs to able to handle the software load. USB started popping up on all types of devices from digital cameras to MP3 players. It is now used to even connect devices together with out even using a computer.

Firewire came about shortly after the release of USB. This severely hurt the spread of its use because USB had quickly become a standard for personal computers. It was developed by Apple and released in 1995 on its G3 Power Mac. Apple had the advantage of being the standard computer in the artistic community, so this was the edge that they had on USB. It took a couple of years, but consumer electronics began using Firewire to appeal to the industry that connected video and sound equipment to their Macs. It was also praised for its speed of data transfer. It was nearly impossible to transfer digitized video via USB because it was too slow. Firewire affected the entertainment industry in such a way it won the 2001 Primetime Emmy Engineering Award.

Which technology is better? With the release of USB 2.0, USB has dominated Firewire and almost made it disappear in the PC industry. Mac still embraces it; even cell phones have USB ports on them. USB is now fast, universal and you can actually charge devices like cell phones and iPods through a USB port. Firewire started out with the speed, but USB has pulled ahead in a dominating way.

Take Care Of You Laptop Battery Or Else

Take Care Of You Laptop Battery Or ElseLaptops are common now; most people have them to take to school or when they travel for work. They’re useful and easy to move with. What is also common is to see someone scrambling to find a place to charge a laptop battery. That report due tomorrow may suddenly be lost if you don’t find an outlet within thirty seconds… Or that slideshow you have created (but carelessly forgot to save) may disappear if your laptop battery is not recharged.

As common as laptops are now, it is just as common to see individuals forgetting that the machine needs a little bit of help to run. It does not magically power itself; the battery does not somehow manage to stay full as you work for hours at a time. Yet, many seem to think that their battery does just that. No matter how long they stay hunched over the machine, it will work.

A few times of having the laptop die will cure that fantasy.

The truth is: you must keep your laptop charged. Yes, one of the advantages of having a laptop is that you can take it anywhere; it does not require you to remain plugged into the wall. That still does not mean that you can expect the laptop to run with a low battery. Yes, you can walk around with it; yes, you can wander away from your plug. You still should return, however, when your computer tells you it’s low.

And they do tell you. Laptops feature a symbol at the top of the screen that allows you to see just how much your battery is charged. The lower it drops, the less time you have. This is basic. Anyone will even a small trace of knowledge should know and understand this. Yet, too many people risk losing everything to squeeze out an extra minute on their battery. These are the same people who try to frantically finish a report as opposed to saving and heading to their charger, only to lose the majority of it when the computer quits. And these are the same people who swear they will never do it again, but forget that promise the next time around.

Laptop batteries have short ives. They can fail as quickly as thirty minutes. Some last longer, of course, but the result is still the same: if you are not careful and don’t pay attention, the battery will die. Of course, laptops offer warnings when a battery is low. Often, a small screen will pop up to remind you that the time is almost there. Still, thinking you can simply ignore that screen since you’re busy is not the wisest of moves.

This are basic ideas, and you may be rolling your eyes, wondering who would be so foolish. But it does happen, all-too-often it happens. Because of this, you must make an effort to remember that, as convenient as your laptop is, it is still a machine and therefore needs care. Check your laptop battery and keep it charged.

Building Your Own Computer

Building Your Own ComputerThe world of computers is constantly changing. It is one of the only industries that is different from month to month. If you’re in the market for a new PC, there are continually new options available. To get the best bang for your buck in computer technology, you may want to consider building your own PC.

Those with a little know how in the computer industry can save themselves tons of money by building their own computers. Companies such as Tiger Direct and offer components that can create a top of the line system for a fraction of the cost. These stores offer all of the necessary components that reside in the “case” or main unit of the computer.

These include the motherboard, processor, cooling fans, hard drive, memory, keyboard, mouse, video and sound cards. There are motherboards available with integrated video and sound but not all do.

When you are buying a motherboard, make sure to check whether you will need to buy a separate video and sound card. Also make sure that the motherboard you are buying has extra slots so you can expand your system.

Another key to remember when building your own computer is to make sure all of your components will work together. Manufacturers make specific models to work together, so you may want to buy your parts from just one brand.

If you are going to use your computer to surf the Internet and play computer games you are going to need extra pieces. At minimum you will need an Ethernet card, CD/DVD drives and a graphics card. You can also benefit from gaming ports for joysticks or other game controllers.

The hardest part about building your own PC is installing the motherboard and the Operating System. This is the first step toward creating the unit. You must physically put the components into the case using screws. Begin with the motherboard and then connect your processor. Add the memory into the memory slots and install any necessary drives.

Once you’ve installed the drives, you can put in the install CDs for your operating system. Most PCs will guide you through the set up process to install the operating system. After making sure the operating system is up and running, put in your other devices one at a time.

Although it may be quicker to install all of your additional hardware at once, you want to test each piece as you go to make sure that piece is in good working order.

Even though building your own PC can give you a better computer for less money, the process is not for everyone. As a compromise, computer companies like Dell and Gateway allow their customers to custom build PCs on their website.

A customer can choose from different options regarding speed, memory and special portals. The additional benefit of buying from a company is that the PC is normally under a guarantee. You can also take advantage of technical support. This may be the best option for someone who has extra money to spend to get the custom components that they want.

When Should you Give up on that Old Computer?

Computers last only so long. Sooner or later you’ll either have to do some computer repair on that old computer of yours or simply decide to abandon it. In this article I’ll give you tips to help you decide when you need to send your computer out to pasture.

How much will the computer repair cost you? What kind of repair you need to have performed on your computer and the relative cost of that repair can help you make the choice to walk away from fixing that computer. Most computer repair shops will offer you a free estimate before they perform the repair. Smaller computer shops are more likely to offer free estimates that larger shops. If the computer shop you usually go to won’t give you a free estimate, consider finding one that will.

Most software repair problems will cost you under $100 and won’t usually be a reason to ditch your computer. Keep in mind that a newer computer in and of itself, won’t stop you from getting a virus, or some nasty spyware and such. You still need to have anti-virus software installed and up to date. One exception to this advice though is if your computer is running an older operating system because it won’t / can’t run the latest patched operating system out there. In that case, buying a new computer would in fact help you avoid software related problems in the future.

Sometimes, it isn’t the one repair that is expensive but the need for multiple repairs over a short period of time. I have an old Thinkpad 600X that is over seven years old. At first, I reasoned that I only needed a few repairs (which I was able to do myself). I replaced the battery, I added new memory and I replaced my keyboard. All of this cost me about $200. Now my hard drive has developed some problems and I’m looking at another $100 or so to replace it. Last Thanksgiving, I would have been able to get purchase a brand new laptop for as little as $400. This new laptop had many features lacking in my old computer laptop like a DVD player, more memory, a larger LCD screen and more. Sometimes, it makes more sense to purchase a new computer than to keep repairing an old one.

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether that computer repair makes sense or whether you need to look at buying a new computer. Many different factors can come into play but ultimately, it’s about getting things done with a computer whether your old one or a new one.

Laptop and Notebook Computer AC Power Adapters

An AC Power Adapter is an electronic device which produces a specific direct current from the mains with an Alternating Current (AC). Although actually a power supply it is popularly known as an AC Power Adapter or AC Adapter. Laptops along with most other portable devices use Direct Current (DC), this also applies to rechargeable batteries which power laptops. Direct Current has a constant flow of electric charge in one direction and flows from low to high potential. Connecting a laptop to AC is unsuitable and dangerous due to the varying magnitude and direction of the current, which can cause an internal component to fail and even result in fire.

The AC Adapter carries out the following steps to produce the correct current and voltage to power your laptop or charge your laptop battery:

o Converts the mains voltage to a lower voltage level

o Converts the AC voltage to a DC voltage by a process called rectification

o Smooths out any voltage ripple

o Converts the voltage to the required voltage to power the laptop

The other well-known name for an AC Power Adapter is battery charger or laptop battery charger. This is an important device providing you with laptop mobility and frees you of restriction from using the power cord. Check the link at the end of this article to find the correct AC Power Adapter for your laptop.

Car and Airplane Power Adapters

This is a particular design of a power adapter which accepts DC input and output DC voltage required to power a laptop. Instead of a standard plug for a wall socket, these have a specific cable that plugs in the cigarette lighter. The 12V DC supplied through the cigarette lighter socket is converted to provide a different DC voltage. This power adapter can also be used in other vehicles with similar sockets i.e. Vans, trucks and even boats. Air or airplane adapters work in the same way.

Universal Laptop Power Adapters

Complying with most mains power supplies worldwide, a universal power adapter or power supply is able to accept an input voltage ranging from 100 – 240 V with a frequency range of 50 – 60Hz. A truly universal product. However, the term universal also applies to the array of laptops it can supply power to. Laptops are built to various specifications and the power consumption varies accordingly. Physical attributes also differ between laptops and are not limited to the power socket. Manufacturers of universal laptop power adapters supply various connecting tips allowing the adapter to be connected to various laptops. These connecting tips help the power adapter detect the correct voltage to supply the laptop.

Universal power adapters are also available for cars and airplanes. Supplied with different types of plugs to fit a car cigarette lighter socket or the in-seat adapter on most airplanes, such power adapters truly allow the user to be mobile over great distances. The 2-Power Universal Car Air Power Adapter can power 98% of laptop computers.

Cooling Problems: A Five Step Approach

Is your computer a monster? Is it a fire-breathing dragon that can go howling through the latest games, the most intense video, and the heaviest of heavy duty number crunching?

If so, the analogy of fire-breathing dragon to computer may be particularly apt, because the inside of its case can run as hot as blazes. To prevent this, I favor a five step approach.

The first step is perhaps the easiest to deal with. Answer this: what is the room temperature where your computer is located? Cool, perhaps uncomfortably cool for some people, is best. This brings to mind a friend, a skinny, aesthetic fellow, who spends hours running a demanding 3-D animation program on his PC.

He liked a room temperature near 80 degrees, while his computer would have preferred something in the range of 68 or so. Actually, he was shortening the life of his machine by running it under these conditions. Finally, he was persuaded to wear a pullover, and turn the thermostat down. My friend is reasonably content with the compromise, and his computer lives on.

Now, the second step: have you noticed the design of computer desks? How there’s a cubby hole set aside for the computer itself? Usually, a PC will just barely fit into the things.

If you get such a desk, use the cubby hole for instruction manuals, textbooks, put a vase there, anything but a computer. The walls of the cubby hole block air vents, restricting the airflow inside your computer’s case. Hot air pools up, letting the temperature climb higher, like the inside of a oven.

No matter how strong the exhaust fans are in your PC, it has to be able to pull some air in through the vents to breathe, you might say. Give it a chance. Keep it out of the cubby hole.

Also, keep it out of direct sunlight. That is the third step. Ask yourself this: why does a cat like to sleep in the shaft of sunlight that comes through a window? The answer is obvious. It’s warm there.

Now, imagine a computer, with a dark colored case sitting before that same window. It will get hot without even running!

When your cat gets hot, it can get up and walk away. Your computer can’t. So, keep it out of sunlight.

The next step is one of the most practical, and addresses the problem directly. The surest way to lower the temperature inside your PC’s case is to add another fan.

This is a much simpler operation than it may sound like to the beginner. All you have to do is open up the case, mount the fan with four screws, and either connect it to a lead coming from the case’s power supply, or plug it into a 5V receptacle on the motherboard.

The rub comes when you don’t have a place to mount another fan. This is often a problem with smaller size cases.

Modification, cutting a new fan port, is a job best left to an experienced hand. I have done this sort of thing, but only on a completely empty case. Everything, motherboard, hard drive, and all, comes out first. No metal shavings, or metal dust should be allowed to reach your PC’s components.

The fifth step, if the others fail, is liquid cooling. At one time, this was viewed as a drastic option, and I can well remember how leery many of us were when this new technology came on the market. Yet its fascination drew me to try it, on a PC I put together from scratch.

The effectiveness surprised me. It tamed what could have been an otherwise insurmountable cooling problem, and has performed admirably in the many months since.

Uses for an External Hard Drive

An external hard drive is a hard disk drive (much like the one in your computer) that is placed externally, outside of the case. You can buy them pre-made, or purchase a hard drive and an enclosure, and make your own. They came in many sizes, are relatively inexpensive, and are well suited to perform various functions. In this article, I will detail 3 specific uses for your external hard drive.

For one reason or another, you may have chosen a computer whose storage capacity you’ve outgrown. It may be full to capacity with files and programs, and you need room to expand. So the first example is to use your external hard drive to add expandability to your computer. This is true in case all of your PC’s hard drive bays are full, and especially if you have a laptop which has only one hard drive bay.

A second example is to use your external hard drive as a shared storage drive. You can attach it to a PC, set permissions and share-ability, and start saving, and sharing various files. For example, you can share and save pictures, MP3s, and video files. By using it in this manner, you’ll be able to free up tons of space on your computer’s local hard drive, and you’ll be able to share files with everyone in your home network.

Another possible use for your external hard drive is to save important documents. For example, you can scan wills, deeds, insurance information, leases, bank account and credit information, and store them on your external hard drive. You can also take pictures of all your valuables, and keep these safe in your external hard drive for future reference. If it’s important to you, then it’s worthy of being saved in your external hard drive. You can then store this hard drive in a secure location such as a fire-proof safe, or a safety deposit box. This will surely save you tons of headaches in case of theft, or worse yet, a disaster.

There you have it. That’s 3 possible uses for your external hard drive. They’re versatile, and come in sizes that you can choose according to your specific needs. If you have a lot of files to save, then you can get a 500 GB hard drive, or larger if you wish. If you only have a few important documents to save, then maybe a 15 GB hard drive will suffice. The important thing is that it is you who can choose the size you need. It is you who can choose what its primary function will be. And if you need to, you can get more than one external hard drive. That’s what makes them so ideal.

What Power Supply Do I Need?

In our world today, the quality of a personal computer is often measured only by its processor speed, memory capacity, and hard drive space and for gamers, the quality of the video card. Sometimes, the computer monitor will grab some attention, especially if it has an LCD screen. Seldom, however, do we think of a computer by its power supply. And seldom do we give them an upgrade, even if we have upgraded each and every other computer component.

But when the power supply is damaged or stops working, we have to think about it, or we have no computer period. The only solution is a power supply replacement.

There are a lot of computer power supplies available in computer shops, so finding one should not be difficult. Replacing your power supply with a new unit should also be easy. The hard part is selecting the power supply that your computer needs. There are different kinds of power supplies and each has different specs. For your computer to work properly, it must be equipped with the right one.

There are two basic things to consider whenever you are buying a new power supply for your computer — power requirements and the power supply’s form factor.

Power Requirement

Modern power supplies have power outputs that range from 200 watts to 500 watts. Before purchasing a new power supply, you must first know the amount of power that each of your computer’s components need. These power requirements can usually be found on the labels of the components themselves. By adding up these figures, you’ll have a good estimate of the power output your new power supply should have.

As a general rule, never buy a power supply with output ratings that are lower than your estimates. Neither should you buy those that have too high a power rating, as most of this power would simply be wasted.

Form Factor

The standard form factor used on most PC power supplies today is the ATX-form factor. Not all power supplies, however, use this standard. If you have an older PC, it must be using a power supply in the AT-form factor. There are also less common form factors today like the TFX and BTX form factors. Before purchasing a new power supply, identify first what form factor would fit on your PC or else there’ll be no way for you to use it.

How To Properly Install A New DVD Drive With Ease

When you are ready to begin installing your new DVD Drive,have plenty of room on your desk or table to work.Allow enough space to move around and to be able to move the system unit as well.

Check to see if you have ample light.You may want to have a container to place small screws in.The system unit cover may have small screws and you don’t want to lose them.

After you have plenty of work space and ample lighting, prepare your mind as well.Make this and every other adventure of working on your computer educational and fun.

Now go over to to familarize yourself with all components inside the PC. Take the time to study the actual components inside your computer.You’ll be glad you did should something go wrong.Follow these steps to install your drive.



Turn off your computer and unplug all peripherals. Take notice of how you unplug or disconnect any devices.


Remove the side panel of the tower system or the cover if you have a desktop.Place the panel in a safe place well out of the way.


Before touching anything inside the system unit, remove electrical static charge from your body by touching a door knob or any unpainted metal surface.


Remove the new drive from its protective wrapping and take the time to read through the manual. Be sure you have all components and save the box just in case it need to be returned.


Check the jumper settings on the drive to be sure it is set to master.If you are adding this drive as a second drive,you will have to set one as master and one as the slave drive.

Your manual should make this procedure quick and fast. A small pair of tweezers can be used to remove the small jumper to the correct position.Most drives are set to master by default.



Locate the drive bay for the cdrom drive.In most cases,its at the top of the case.If you are removing another drive,slide it out partially,disconnect cables, and slide the drive out completely.Take note of the location of all connections.

If you are installing a new drive the first time,use a small screwdriver to pop off the 5.25 inch drive bay cover and bezel on the system unit case.


Slide the new drive in partially and connect the data,sound,and power cables to the rear of the drive.Slide the drive in completely and use small screws to secure the drive to the case.

In some cases,the drive is secured to the case with the use of Drive rails.These rails should be mounted on the old drive if you had to remove one.Check the drive’s manual if your new drive came with side rails.

When connecting the cable,carefully graps the cables by the ends and not the wires themselves.Carefully but firmly push the connectors into their sockets until you are certain of a good connection.

If you are installing this drive as a second drive and have made this drive the secondary or slave drive, connect the drive to the center connector on the Ribbon cable.The master drive must be at the end.


After all cables are re-connected to the drive and the drive is secured to the case,replace the system unit cover,reconnect all peripherals.Be sure the faceplate of the drive is flush with the front of the computer.



Boot up the computer and in nearly all cases,the operating system should detect the new drive and install the device driver if necessary.

In most cases,new cdroms and dvd drives will not come with a cdrom or diskette with a device driver. Windows should install the drive with ease.

Some new drives will come with a cdrom full of software,such as games,music,or movies.Check this cdrom for software utilities that you may need to help run and operate your drive.


heck your new drive to see if Windows has recognized it.Click on My Computer and you should see the drives installed.Check for both drives if you installed the drive as a second drive.

And that’s it.You can now use the drive as a huge data backup.Or you may want to make movies. Whatever the case,check the drive for compatbility with other drives.

Take the time to learn absolutely everything about that computer you’re reading this with.Quickly master the art of installing not just the dvd drive, but all drives and other components.

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